Cascia Hall Wrestlers Proud to be ‘Tuttlenotors’

GTR Sports Writer

GOLD MEDALISTS: Cascia Hall wrestlers Dalton Abney, left, and Eli Griffin wear their gold medals after winning Oklahoma state championships, respectively, at 195 and 106 pounds in Class 4A in late February.

Photo courtesy of Mike Griffin

Hanging on the walls of the Cascia Hall wrestling room are state champions labeled as “Tuttlenators” – guys who won gold medals by beating a foe from Tuttle, a perennial Class 4A mat powerhouse in Oklahoma.  

“My coach (Ernie Jones) talked about how three or four years ago we had the first wrestler that pinned a Tuttle kid, so we started calling our victorious wrestlers ‘Tuttlenators’ and putting pictures of the victories on the wall every time,” says Dalton Abney, Cascia Hall’s 195-pound wrestler this past season. “Ever since then, I always wanted to be one and wanted to have my picture on the wall for being a ‘Tuttlenator’ and a state champ.”

Abney, a senior, achieved that dream when he pinned the Tigers’ Maison Duke at the 1:21 mark of the 4A 195-pound in late February in Oklahoma City. He, along with freshman teammate Eli Griffin, added their names to Cascia Hall’s wrestling lore with state championships.

Griffin was a victor at 106 pounds by capturing a 3-2 decision over Blanchard sophomore Braeden Williams in the finals.

Both Abney and Griffin were the only wrestlers to score for the Commandoes in the team standings, helping them to a fifth-place finish with 45 points. Tuttle did win the team title with 210 points. Between the Tigers and Cascia Hall were runner-up Oklahoma City Heritage Hall (83.5), Blanchard (third, 77.5) and Elgin (fourth, 65.5).

A three-sport athlete (he also plays football and baseball), Abney had qualified for state the previous two seasons. Each year, he would make it to the final only to lose to someone from Tuttle.

“In my sophomore year, I got completely overpowered,” he says. “So I knew I had to get stronger. I worked on that my junior year. Then, my junior year, I was undefeated going into the state tournament. I think I went in there too cocky, knowing I should win, but, I ended up getting beat. By my senior year, I was hungry and knew I had to get one.”

Abney’s Tuttle opponent each year was also a senior. In the 2017 state tournament, he battled Tuttle’s Tanner Johnson, now at Air Force, in the 170-pound final. Abney was riding Johnson until the last three seconds of the match, when Johnson made a reverse to get the win. 

Abney was not nervous heading into this year’s final.

“I had the state experience and knew how to get ready for a match and not psych myself out,” he says. “I just treated it like any other match by going out there and doing it like one knows how to do.”

Abney delivered with a first period-pin of Duke.

For Griffin, this is what he hopes is the first of many championships.

“It feels really good,” he says. “It just makes me want to push on to bigger goals and it makes me more motivated to do better in the future.”

Griffin was winning 3-0 against Williams before having to hang on.

“It was a close match, but I felt like it was in my favor the whole time,” he says.
What he believed worked to his advantage was “keeping my calm and making sure I did everything clean and crisp and making sure everything was perfect,” Griffin says.
With an opportunity to be a four-time state champion, Griffin also has aspirations to wrestle in college and the Olympics, winning gold in both.

Griffin plans to wrestle freestyle in the summer, where he also hopes to win national titles.

“I will be weightlifting a lot and making sure I stay in shape and just making sure I don’t get rusty and wrestle as much as I can,” he says.

The winning duo have their thoughts on what makes wrestling a sport that stands out.
“I love that it teaches you life lessons,” Griffin says. “Like how to keep going and how it is all in your mind. It’s a lot of mental toughness.”

“My favorite part of wrestling is that it is a one-person sport,” Abney says. “I like how it’s you vs. another dude. It’s kind of like saying ‘I’m better than you’ or ‘You’re better than me.’ That is the purpose of wrestling.”

Both athletes love wrestling for Ernie Jones, who has coached dozens of wrestling greats through his career, including former Olympian Kenny Monday.

“He’s awesome,” Griffin says. “He’s a great coach, and he’s really funny and always pushes me to keep going. It’s awesome to wrestle for someone who has coached Olympic Gold medalists.”

“I’m super-blessed to be wrestling for Coach Jones,” Abney says. “His coaching style just fits me. He’s not the super rah-rah coach; he just kind of lays back and knows what you need to do. If you come off a match with a win, he doesn’t go straight into what you did wrong. He will tell you ‘good job,’ then he’ll work his way into telling you what you could have done better. He just wants you to go out and get a job done and get it over with.”

Updated 04-27-2018

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